To the Point for 6/8/2006

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SWITZERLAND COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL HAD A busy weekend, going from the softball regional and the golf conference meet to the IHSAA state track finals all on Saturday, to graduation on Sunday.

Graduation day is always a little strange for me, because it’s a time when I look back at all of the times that these kids have crossed my path during their school careers. Like parents and family friends, it’s often hard to believe that the Class of 2006 should be graduating and heading off into the rest of their lives, but before they do, as a community I believe that we need to pause and understand the very special people that we are sending out there into this big world.

On Saturday, we saw four members of the Switzerland County Lady Pacer softball team conclude their careers at the Regional. Natalie Daugherty, Kodi Driver, Natalie Graham, and Ashley Chase have formed a nucleus during their time at the high school around which major athletic accomplishments have occurred.

They capped that on Saturday with a disappointing loss; but the true value that they have in this community goes far beyond the softball diamond.

Natalie Daugherty and Kodi Driver stood on the graduation stage less than 24 hours later as class valedictorians with perfect 4.0 GPAs. Natalie Graham was right behind at the class salutatorian, also posting wonderful academic accomplishments.

Ashley Chase is perhaps the finest athlete to ever walk the halls of Switzerland County High School, and this fall she will continue to make this community proud as a member of the University of Evansville’s women’s basketball program.

Ben Hickman represented his school and community at the state track meet, something that a Pacer track runner hasn’t accomplished in a decade.

He is also making plans to continue his education following high school, knowing that education is the way to a successful life.

Switzerland County had four students earn perfect 4.0 grade point averages over their four years of high school; and along with Natalie Daugherty and Kodi Driver; Melissa Kinne and Bud Washer are outstanding examples of the quality of student and person that moves out into the next phase of their life and is proud to say:

“I’m from Switzerland County. You’ve probably never heard of it, but it’s a wonderful place to live.”

Look through the list of graduates, and you will see name after name of young people who have already made a significant impact on this community through volunteerism; the arts; their church; and through representing this county on athletic and academic fronts.

Josh Wegman scored the highest score on the SAT that a Switzerland County student has posted in many years. Choir members Maggie Eich, Jimmy Williams, and Kattie Eldridge showed off their singing talents by doing a wonderful job with The National Anthem on graduation day.

At a time when both the state and federal governments are hounding our schools and others around the nation to achieve more, our schools are a model of students coming from a rural setting and earning and attaining an outstanding education.

Sadly, it is also a time when we say goodbye to kids that we’ve grown very close to, and I would be remiss if I didn’t make some personal remarks to some of those students.

Amanda Faber has worked for Vevay Newspapers for more than a year. Sometimes we didn’t have very much for her to do, but no assignment was too small, and she tackled each and every one with a passion for doing the very best that she could.

I coached Amanda in little league softball, and now that she has grown into a wonderful young person, I know that she will continue those successes in college and beyond. I am proud of her, both professionally and personally.

Melissa Kinne has been a fixture in my home for many years, partly because she is a great friend of my oldest daughter — and partly because she just never would leave.

If you heard her speech on Sunday, you saw vintage Melissa — and you had to smile and laugh. One of the most intelligent people that I’ve ever known, Melissa has a tendency to be a little “scatter brained” at times, but like the old saying goes: “What you see is what you get.”

She is 100-octane Melissa 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and I think that the greatest compliment that I can give her is that she has truly earned each and every accomplishment that has come her way.

“Ben-jammin’” Hickman has lived around the corner from me nearly all his life; and years later as I watch home movies of my children’s birthday parties, there is little doubt that Ben is in the room. A quiet presence with a smile whose size is only dwarfed by the size of his heart, Ben is at his core a caring and sensitive man who is and will continue to be a true leader among his peers and his community, because he leads by example and not by force.

There are many others: Tyler May and Sarah “Perk” Perkins and Mat Deaton and Brittany Mukadam and Cody Peters (smile, Cody) and B.J. Shelton and Katie South. All of them are bound for great things and I’m proud of them.

Oh yes, there’s one other.

How can I write this without telling Natalie Daugherty what a tremendous person she is. I honestly can’t remember life without Natalie, as she and her family are like family to me here.

There are no Lanman home movies without Natalie running through them. No Little Swiss Polka Dancer photos that Natalie isn’t in. She’s been on nearly every softball team I ever coached, and her wit is unmatched by anyone else you will ever know.

I remember the day she learned to ride a bike; and that her favorite color is green and her favorite word was “gazebo” because she liked the way it sounded. I remember the night she was frozen in place on a softball field because of the bugs circling her; and the day she theorized that it must have cost Michael Jackson a lot of money to “get peach”.

You have a daughter and want to show her a role model? Point her squarely at Natalie Ann Daugherty. Academically, athletically, and everything else that makes up a truly special human being is embodied inside of her — and I can’t wait to see what her future holds.

I love ya, Nat. Congratulations and good luck.